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The Jewish Case of Halloween Envy

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Christmas envy has been well documented. There are many Jews who are less than subtle about their yuletide longings: the lights are shimmery and sparkly, that tree smells fantastic, the music is just so very merry, and who doesn’t want an eggnog latte? Many of us have made our peace with the little bits of the all-encompassing Christmas barrage that we have come to love–I myself feel like I can have my Bing Crosby and eat it, too. But this time of year there’s another sort of envy happening in Jewish necks of the woods: Halloween envy, or as I like to call it, Halloweenvy.

Unlike Christmas, Halloween isn’t technically a Christian holiday, and therefore, it’s harder to avoid. Of course, many Jews, or probably most Jews, celebrate Halloween. There are, however, Jews who believe that Halloween is an idolatrous, pagan holiday, and that as such, celebrating it is not only not our custom, but it’s actually against Jewish law.

I’m not about to get into that discussion. But I will say that many of us have some degree of envy. The same way that Christmas feels wintry and cozy and just right for that time of year, so too does Halloween feel safe and warm in that fall-leaves-and-apple-cider kind of way. We go to pumpkin patches, we eat pumpkin pie, we drink those pumpkin lattes, and we buy the 3,000 pumpkin-flavored items that Trader Joe’s has on the shelves this time of year, but we don’t feel right displaying the pumpkins at home, carved or uncarved. And while our own children will not be going trick-or-treating, many of us buy candy for the neighborhood kids who do trick-or-treat. This is one way to be a good neighbor. It is also a way to ensure that I will have mini Butterfingers to last me through a nuclear winter. (In the name of neighborliness, this year I bought about 600 pounds of chocolate, all because I violated the golden rule of bulk: NEVER go to Costco when you are hungry.)

In short, we participate to a degree, but we avoid Halloween-creep.

While most of us are quiet about being on the sidelines of Halloween, there are those of us who are loud and proud in our non-participation. Not surprisingly, many of the most vocal anti-Halloweeners are often the ones with the worst cases of Halloweenvy. My Facebook feed is peppered with such posts: “We don’t celebrate Halloween, but if we did, these are the costumes I would be sewing myself, and this is the giant jack-o-lantern constructed entirely out of candy corn that we would be eating for dinner on Halloween night, which we will not be doing because we are Jewish and don’t celebrate Halloween.” I think I might even have seen a “Top 10 Reasons Purim is Better Than Halloween” posted by someone who also said: KEEP CALM AND WAIT FOR PURIM.

These people are fooling nobody. We all secretly want in on a little bit of the Halloween action, whether it’s a syrupy latte, a scary movie, or 200 mini Reeses peanut butter cups (also in my pantry). Announcing to the world that you don’t want anything to do with Halloween reveals only that you’d trade your mother for a bag of candy and a costume party.

The Teal Pumpkin Project, which aims to keep trick-or-treaters with food allergies safer on Halloween, is laudable but it isn’t helping matters. Now, non-Halloweeners with particularly bad cases of Halloweenvy can say that while they don’t celebrate Halloween, and would NEVER have a carved grinning pumpkin on their doorstep, they will display the teal allergy pumpkin. You know, in solidarity. I’m on to those people. (As far as I’m concerned that teal pumpkin is the Hanukkah bush of Halloween.)

Here’s what I say to Halloweenvious people out there: You don’t have to celebrate a holiday to enjoy it going on around you, and you certainly don’t have to be against a holiday just because you are not for it. I do not celebrate Halloween, but I appreciate that it happens, and anything that makes it OK for me to own a silo of candy corn is a pretty good thing. Maybe I’ll be good and save some for Purim.


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